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The Addictive Brain

Discover the neural mechanisms that underlie the behaviors of addiction in this fascinating course taught by one of the top cognitive neuroscientists in the country.
The Addictive Brain is rated 4.8 out of 5 by 110.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from I have quit marijuana Discover the step-by-step guide to reclaiming your life and freedom from weed with our empowering eBook [ Quit Marijuana Guide: Your Guide to Overcoming Marijuana Dependency - ]
Date published: 2024-04-18
Rated 4 out of 5 by from CBD VS THC IN MARIJUANA I'm inspired to write this review in a coffee shop in a small town, outside of which there are half a dozen homeless street people sitting on the sidewalk. No doubt many of them have/ had addictions. THE ADDICTIVE BRAIN explains a great deal about addiction cycles. However, Lecture #8 The Science of Marijuana troubled me. That is because Prof. Polk made no distinction between the two chief components of marijuana--CBD & THC. CBD has no psychoactive effects. THC, on the other hand, is the component that gets the user high and becomes perhaps addicted. On one hand, CBD is very effective at non-addictive pain control. On the other, THC creates addiction. Even more troubling about "recreational marijuana" use of THC is that at any dispensary the THC products sold are distilled and extremely concentrated. At these high concentrations than weed in its natural state, THC concentrates are very effective at creating psychological problems, which is being seen in high school and even younger students. By blurring the distinction between legitimate medical use of CBD to control pain and THC to get the user high, the "medical marijuana" lobby has sold the lie that concentrated THC is harmless. It is not! Perhaps I should cut Prof. Polk some slack, since this video was made in 2015 before the medical marijuana dispensary lobby has achieved success across much of America.
Date published: 2023-08-16
Rated 2 out of 5 by from feels like i'm watching an infomercial This show is not meant for addicts, only those who want to learn about it but have no issues themselves. It is very basic and for those who know nothing about addiction. It's also incredibly white and lacks diversity. There a few things he said that was inaccurate. For example, he said that pharmaceutical are given out without people getting addicted. I'd argue that many of thousands of people are addicts because they were introduced to opioids through the health system. He also said that addicts often end up neglecting tasks because of their addiction, but avoiding tasks is a huge reason for the addiction, He words everything as if the addict has no choice but to be a slave to the addiction, but I engage in the addiction so I can avoid the task, its an active choice I make because the task seems too difficult - which is why I have the addiction. Avoiding tasks is not a RESULT of an addiction, the want to avoid is often the CAUSE of the addiction.
Date published: 2023-04-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great for my High School Homeschool students We watched this course as an addition to our Science/Biology homeschool program, and it was extremely informative and kept the kids' interest the entire time. At first, I was afraid the lecturer would bore my kids, but I was shocked; they watched with interest each entire lecture. Coupled with diagrams, statistics, and visual explanations, it was very engaging; I would definitely recommend.
Date published: 2023-01-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great courses I found each of the courses I purchased to be informative and applicable to mu needs.
Date published: 2021-12-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from what i was looking for Polk provides interesting information without sounding like an obnoxious "sage on the stage."
Date published: 2021-11-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very nicely and knowledgeably presented. This helps me understand the addicts we work with in a church setting.
Date published: 2021-11-03
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Calm Insight into Emotional Issues This course is a scientific introduction into the areas of caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, marijuana, cocaine and other stimulants, opioids, gambling, pornography, and junk food. Yeah, that’s a lot of toes to stomp on. Dr. Polk takes a measured, scientific, analytical approach to each of these controversial topics. He emphasizes that he does not give any medical advice and that if the listener wants to actually address any addiction, that listener should seek professional medical assistance. Thus, Dr. Polk addresses the psychology and the neurology (brain receptors, synapses, etc.) of addiction, not its treatment. Perhaps the biggest problem with this course is that the listener is most likely interested in just one or two of the addictions; the other lectures are wasted in a sense. I used the video version of the course. However, it would be acceptable to use it in an audio-only setting such as jogging or while commuting in a car or other transportation.
Date published: 2021-08-19
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Addiction touches us all. By some estimates, 25% of Americans might be addicts. What happens when your brain is on drugs? Discover the neural mechanisms that underlie the behaviors of addiction, and see how drugs and activities like gambling can hijack the brain and lead to behavioral problems. Understanding addiction can motivate an addict to seek treatment, and can lead loved ones to see the addict in a new way.


Thad Polk

Every aspect of our mental life is controlled by the brain. So if we ever hope to understand the human mind, and how it's affected by aging, by disease, and by drugs, then we need to develop a better understanding of the brain and the neural mechanisms that underlie cognition.


University of Michigan

Professor Thad A. Polk is an Arthur F. Thurnau Professor in the Department of Psychology and the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the University of Michigan. He received a B.A. in Mathematics from the University of Virginia and an interdisciplinary Ph.D. in Computer Science and Psychology from Carnegie Mellon University. He also received postdoctoral training in cognitive neuroscience at the University of Pennsylvania.

Professor Polk's research combines functional imaging of the human brain with computational modeling and behavioral methods to investigate the neural architecture underlying cognition. Some of his major projects have investigated differences in the brains of smokers who quit compared with those who do not, changes in the brain as we age, and contributions of nature versus nurture to neural organization. Professor Polk regularly collaborates with scientists at the University of Texas at Dallas and at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin, where he is a frequent visiting scientist.

Professor Polk regularly teaches on topics ranging from the human mind and brain, to cognitive psychology, to computational modeling of cognition. His teaching at the University of Michigan has been recognized by numerous awards, and he was named to The Princeton Review's list of the Best 300 Professors in the United States.

By This Professor

The Addictive Brain
The Learning Brain
The Aging Brain
Shocking Psychological Studies and the Lessons They Teach
The Addictive Brain


Addiction 101

01: Addiction 101

Begin your course by defining "addiction," which is diagnosed based on characteristics such as abuse, dependence, and craving. Professor Polk then surveys the history of drug use, from ancient history through the development of synthetics in the 19th and 20th centuries. Finally, he reviews government regulation and the substantial costs of drug abuse, both to the individual and to society.

34 min
The Psychology and Neuroscience of Reward

02: The Psychology and Neuroscience of Reward

Explore the brain's mechanisms for learning from reinforcement. You'll start with the psychological aspects, discovering the way humans learn by a series of trials and rewards. Then you'll find out what parts of the brain process pleasure, self-control, and craving, and see how the psychology and neuroscience of reward processing converge....

31 min
How Addiction Hijacks the Brain

03: How Addiction Hijacks the Brain

Here you'll examine the ways addiction alters the brain by numbing the pleasure center, sensitizing the dopamine system, and inhibiting the prefrontal cortex. Combined, these altered brain functions lead to strong cravings and a reduced ability to control one's actions. This foray into neuroscience will forever change the way you think about addiction....

33 min
Genetics-Born to Be an Addict?

04: Genetics-Born to Be an Addict?

Investigate how people may be susceptible to addiction on a genetic level. Thanks to studies of twins and DNA analysis, scientists are homing in on the genes that predispose us toward addiction. While there is no single "addiction gene," our DNA can significantly influence whether we become addicts....

32 min
Your Brain on Drugs

05: Your Brain on Drugs

Shift your attention from the nature of addiction to the nature of drugs. Here you'll delve into the process of neurochemical transmission and see how drugs mimic this activity by binding to neural receptors. This process is responsible for everything from a drug's physical and psychological effects to its potency....

29 min
Why We Crave Coffee and Cigarettes

06: Why We Crave Coffee and Cigarettes

Caffeine and nicotine are two of the most common psychoactive drugs in our society. How do they work? How dangerous are they? After reviewing how each of these drugs affects the brain-and why nicotine in particular is so addictive-Professor Polk offers several strategies to quit tobacco use....

33 min
Alcohol-Social Lubricant or Drug of Abuse?

07: Alcohol-Social Lubricant or Drug of Abuse?

Alcohol is often discussed separately from other drugs, but as you'll discover in this lecture, alcohol affects the human body in many of the same ways. Take a close look at your brain on alcohol to explore dependence, withdrawal, and genetic susceptibility. Then review several treatment options for alcohol abuse....

30 min
The Science of Marijuana

08: The Science of Marijuana

Although there is no shortage of controversy around marijuana, whose legal status now varies from state to state, the science of this drug may surprise you. Through the lens of the neuroscientist, Professor Polk tours the effects, and the possible medicinal value, of marijuana....

31 min
Stimulants-From Cocaine to Ritalin

09: Stimulants-From Cocaine to Ritalin

From the original recipe for Coca-Cola to treatments for attention deficit disorder, psychostimulant drugs have had remarkable uses. But they have also been dangerously abused in the form of crack cocaine, methamphetamine, and related drugs. Find out how stimulants work in the brain and why they can be so harmful....

32 min
The Science of Poppies, Pleasure, and Pain

10: The Science of Poppies, Pleasure, and Pain

Round out your survey of the world's major drugs with an examination of opium and its derivatives, from regularly prescribed painkillers like codeine and morphine to heroin, often considered the most harmful drug of abuse in the world today. Learn about the neurological effects and treatment options for opiate drugs....

33 min
The Gambler's Brain

11: The Gambler's Brain

Are drugs the only thing humans can get addicted to? What about behaviors? To answer this question, take a look at what happens inside the brain of a compulsive gambler. As this case study reveals, many of the same neurochemical processes of drug abuse-from genetic predisposition to dopamine release-also accompany addiction to behaviors....

32 min
Junk Food, Porn, Video Games-Addictions?

12: Junk Food, Porn, Video Games-Addictions?

The course concludes with an exploration of other potentially addictive behaviors. Professor Polk argues that some artificial stimuli-junk food, pornography, and video games to name three-are "supernormal," meaning that they actually activate the brain's reward circuit more strongly than natural stimuli do, leading to some of the same neurological effects as drug use....

35 min

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